Unrapped: Alabama Rapper Yelawolf

Don’t be fooled by the complexion. Alabama-born, Atlanta resident Yelawolf may look like a skateboard-thrashing rock head, but he’s actually a rapper known more for the hypersonic lyrics he spits. Though one of his favorite pastimes is riding on a deck, these days, he’s got a collection of beats to ride.

Yelawolf, who’s half Cherokee Indian, is aware of the skepticism that comes as a result of his skin color. He may have a plethora of projects under his belt (a 2005 debut album, CreekWater, and mixtapes, Stereo, Arena Rap, and Ball of Flames: The Ballad of Slick Rick E. Bobby), yet he understands why critics are quick to judge him. “There has only been one successful white artist [in hip-hop], which is Eminem,” says Yelawolf, a fan of rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd and gangsta rap icons N.W.A. “We’re the minority in this game, but I think it’s fair. Even after I blow up, the next white artist that comes along will deal with the same thing.”

Confident words spoken from a man who has no major record label backing him. But what he does have, in his eyes, is something far greater: the support of Kawan “KP” Prather. After inking a deal with KP’s Ghet-O-Vision Entertainment in 2007, the heavily-tattooed artist—19 in total—is set to gain some of the same benefits that successes like OutKast and Pink earned upon working with the music industry executive. Trunk Muzik, Yelawolf’s latest mixtape, is one of those perks. Besides shooting a video for the tape’s lauded track, “Pop the Trunk,” Yelawolf also delivered his high-octane flow alongside one of his rap idols, Bun B, on “Good to Go”: “‘Cause you know I got Bun B in the front seat and we got these boppers on the chrome/ One time for your boy Pimp C, ‘Pocket Full of Stones’/ I got a pocket full of stones ’cause I fell off my dirt bike in cargo pants/ I rock a microphone literally, litter the track lyrically with bottles, cans.”

While most rappers celebrate riding in Maybachs, it’s apparent Yelawolf isn’t one of them. Dirt bikes, Chevys, and skateboards are his methods of transportation, with a heavy emphasis on the latter two. So which does he prefer? “That’s the hardest question anyone has ever asked me,” he admits. “A Chevy is where I can get away. You don’t feel like anyone can mess with you. It’s the same feeling with a skateboard. I love them both.”

–Georgette Cline